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The Illinois U.S. Senate Race; Chicago Politics

Aired October 19, 2004 - 09:30   ET


ANNOUNCER: Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING on the road in Chicago.


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm loving the music this morning. Yeah.

HEMMER: Route 66 starts in Chicago, I think, and goes west for a long, long time.

O'BRIEN: Yeah. You notice all the songs obviously this morning have had a Chicago theme, right?

HEMMER: Sure. I kind of feel like we're doing a parade today.

O'BRIEN: Calling the parade...


O'BRIEN: A little bit. A little bit, we are.

Good morning, everybody. Just about half past the hour on AMERICAN MORNING. We're talking about the Illinois Senate race. It's getting national attention as a rising star for the Democrats goes against one of the most conservative voices in the Republican party.

We talked to both Alan Keyes and Barack Obama. We're going to hear from them in just a few moments.

HEMMER: Also this half hour, a look at the long history of Chicago politics. Some say it's colorful; others say it's a lot worse than that. What does it take to make the wheels of progress turn around here? We'll look back in history, too, and see what lessons we can derive out of that.

O'BRIEN: That and much more, but first Heidi Collins got a look at some of the headlines this morning. Good morning, again.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, we do have lots of headlines. You know, we still have quite a few places to see in this city.

HEMMER: Yes we do.

COLLINS: We've seen a couple of things. We're going to be finishing out the week in many different locations tomorrow.

HEMMER: Got to hit the aquarium.

COLLINS: Yes, the aquarium. We promised we would do that and a few museums. Union Station. Tomorrow I'm going to be all by my lonesome over at Millennium Park. So, very much looking forward to that huge, wonderful, artsy sort of place. So, it's going to be pretty cool.

Right now, though, we want to get straight to the news this morning. Reports coming out of Greece this morning of an attack in connection with an ongoing probe at the Athens Olympics. You may remember the story of the two top sprinters in Greece who withdrew from competition following a missed doping test. Well, a key witness in the investigation against them has reportedly been attacked. Police say he is in stable condition this hour with stomach and head injuries. We'll keep you updated on that story, of course.

Social Security checks going up about $25 a month. The government announced this morning that next year's benefits will increase 2.7 percent. More than half of that will be eaten up by higher Medicare premiums. It appears millions of Social Security beneficiaries at the low end of the scale will see no gain at all.

And finally, Patty Davis, daughter of the late President Ronald Reagan, is suing The Salvation Army. Davis claims the organization canceled a speech because she supports stem-cell research. Now, The Salvation Army says it won't pay the $15,000 speaking fee or the $7,500 cancellation fee called for by the contract. Davis was going to talk about dealing with the death of a parent.

That is the news for now.

HEMMER: If you did not stay up late last night, in a few moments we'll let you know how those baseball games turned out.

COLLINS: That's right, we will. Very exciting.

O'BRIEN: Thanks.

Let's talk politics now. Barack Obama is a rising star in the Democratic party. Some say they see him going all the way to the White House one day. But for now, he is a candidate for U.S. Senate from Illinois. And I spoke with him about his views on the war in Iraq and how he differs from John Kerry.


You have said that if you had been a senator at the time, you would have voted no against a military action against Iraq. Senator Kerry, of course, voted yes.


O'BRIEN: His vote would be wrong in your mind? He made a mistake? OBAMA: It's not the vote I would have taken. Now, I think that...

O'BRIEN: That's a charming way to say -- to avoid the question, you think he was wrong?

OBAMA: Here's what I think -- I think the evidence was thin that there was a connection between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda and that there were weapons of mass destruction that would cause an imminent threat.

I think the evidence was strong that this was going to cost us billions of dollars, thousands of lives, and that it would be very difficult for us to get out once we got in.

When you weighed that cost and benefit, I think that it was the wrong thing to do. But I understand Senator Kerry's point, which is if you had a different administration, who you felt could take the authority granted to it by Congress, created a unified front, and then that administration then carried out an effective strategy that combined diplomacy with the option of a military force, then I think something good could have come out of it.

So, I think what you had was not only some paltry evidence, but also extraordinarily bad execution. And that's resulted in a real problem for us that I think is going to last for a number of years to come.

O'BRIEN: What concerns you about making the step from state senator to the national stage?

OBAMA: My family. You know, I've got a...

O'BRIEN: Skeletons in the closet coming out? That kind of thing?

OBAMA: No, no...

O'BRIEN: Anything you want to share with us?

OBAMA: I think at this point, it would have been a -- you know, I've got a wonderful wife and two daughters that I adore. And it's always been difficult to balance family life with the profession that I've chosen. I think it starts getting more difficult when you go to Washington.

The demands on my time are already accelerating -- I can just see from the campaign. And so trying to figure out how to manage those things is, I think, going to be the single greatest challenge, and it's something that my wife and I have already started thinking a lot about.


O'BRIEN: Barack Obama's opponent in the Senate race is Alan Keyes. And by all measures, the Republican has an uphill battle. He trails in the polls by 45 percentage points. I spoke with Alan Keyes earlier this morning.


Why run when you're 40 to 50 points behind?

ALAN KEYES (R-IL), U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE: Actually, the truth of the matter is that somebody who believes that we should be killing babies after they are born, and he has voted three times against stopping this practice in Illinois hospitals, somebody who believes that you can create jobs in the State of Illinois by killing the businesses that provide the jobs, somebody who says to one group that he's for traditional marriage and to another that he's against the Federal Marriage Amendment, the Defense of Marriage Act, and all that you need to do to defend traditional marriage, somebody who gets votes from black Christians and Roman Catholics in Chicago and yet abhors everything that they believe in...

O'BRIEN: Is ahead by 50 points in the poll.

KEYES: ... is not going to win the election in the State of Illinois.

O'BRIEN: But...

KEYES: Excuse me -- the phony polls that y'all put together to try to demoralize people from voting their conscience don't have any bearing on this race, because people are going to vote their conscience.

O'BRIEN: So, what do you think the actual numbers are? Because here, we have a poll up here that's showing 69 percent of the folks...

KEYES: I think the actual issues in this race are very clear. Barack Obama is a leftist extremist who has stood in the Senate of Illinois for things that include the state takeover of healthcare that would have bankrupted the state. Things that include raising fees and taxes on the businesses in the state, that have strangled the business environment in such a way that we are losing jobs.

Do you realize that nearly 20 percent of the manufacturing jobs in Illinois have been lost since 1998?


O'BRIEN: Alan Keyes, hearing from him from a little bit earlier this morning. We also heard just a moment ago from Barack Obama, as well -- Bill?

HEMMER: We know what the weather is here in Chicago.

O'BRIEN: Beautiful day.

HEMMER: Beautiful...

O'BRIEN: A little windy, but beautiful. HEMMER: Here's Chad Myers at the CNN Center watching the rest of the country. Northeast, bit of delays there. Some rain coming down. Good morning.


HEMMER: All right, Chad, thanks.

Late last night -- and boy, it was late, too -- this game went almost six hours. And Boston may want to double David Ortiz's salary, dropping the winning run in the 14th inning late last night, right around 11:00 Eastern time, after fouling off pitch after pitch in the 14th inning before finally delivering the hit that saved the Boston Red Sox from elimination. There it is.

They beat the Yankees, final last night, five hours 49 minutes to play this game. A postseason record that stood for just about 24 hours, because Sunday night's game went 12 innings, lasted five hours and two minutes.

O'BRIEN: We thought that was long.

HEMMER: Game six later tonight in New York. We had some fun, too. Got out to Harry Caray's, famous restaurant here. Such a well- known Chicagoan in his own right. Got a chance -- so many people in our crew are from New York are huge Yankee fans. So, we've got some time to spend there last night at Harry Caray's place, too...

O'BRIEN: A little drinking. A little watching the game.

HEMMER: And ultimately, our guys in our crew not too satisfied. However, they get another shot later tonight in New York City.

O'BRIEN: And we will see.


O'BRIEN: Still to come this morning, Chicago and the political machine. How neighborhood bosses became political kings with promises kept and a healthy dose of corruption.

Plus, we've got another Chicago fun fact for you. What distinction makes the city's Western Avenue so special? The answer's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING. Stay with us.



O'BRIEN: While we listen to ZZ Top, we're going to go back to our little fun fact about Chicago. The question we asked was: What is special about Chicago's Western Avenue? Do you know? I'll tell you, Bill, since you don't know -- it's the world's longest street: 23-and-a-half-mile straightaway. Additional two-and-a-half miles wrapping around City Hall. Western Avenue goes on for a total of 26 miles. Did you know that the Champs-Elysees runs just a paltry small nothingness of seven-and-a-half miles?

HEMMER: Folks in Chicago got it all over the French, don't they?

O'BRIEN: Yeah, by almost 20 miles.

HEMMER: Back to Jack inside of Carton's Restaurant with Andy, as well. Good morning, guys.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you. For the parents who are watching those students behind Bill and Soledad, they've all missed their 8:00 class and probably are in danger of, you know, flunking out or something.

Markets are open with that. And barbecue on his mind, he was out making the night spots in the daytime. Andy Serwer is here "Minding Your Business." Good morning.

ANDY SERWER, "FORTUNE" MAGAZINE: Thanks, Jack. Good morning to you.

Stocks are trading up as advertised this morning. A lot of action. A lot of companies reporting their numbers this morning. You can see here the Dow is up 41 points at 9,997. Actually, interesting point on Wall Street they're talking about -- if the Dow is over 10,000, it's a Bush victory. If it's below 10,000, maybe not. I think that's within the margin of error, wouldn't you say?

CAFFERTY: That's about as close as the polls indicate the race is.

SERWER: Exactly.


SERWER: All right, a couple of stocks moving. IBM, we talked about them, reporting some good numbers. That stock is up three percent. Taser reporting good numbers. That stock is up five percent. Oak Brook, Illinois' own McDonald's did some good numbers. Stock is down a little bit. And Ford is down a little bit, too.

Now, as you mentioned, Jack, we did get out a little bit yesterday, and a gang of us went over to Weber's Grill, which is a barbecue place here. You can see we're having a good time, eating some major, major food. There's Mr. Hemmer. There's a bunch of -- yeah!

CAFFERTY: Oh, that's nice.

SERWER: We're trying to get ratings.

CAFFERTY: You look like Demi Moore in "Navy SEALS."

SERWER: It's interesting -- I'll just let that go. Weber Grill is actually owned by the people who make Weber's Grills out in Palatine, Illinois, and -- which is about 30 miles away.

Here's what Zagat had to say this about the restaurant. If I say this right, jack, you've got to buy me a hot dog. "These relaxed city and suburban bastions of barbecuing backed by the business behind these ubiquitous backyard (INAUDIBLE) briquette burning braziers."

CAFFERTY: Well, I guess that means it was good?

SERWER: Yeah, good stuff.

CAFFERTY: Pretty good stuff.

SERWER: We had a great time.

CAFFERTY: Thanks, Andy.

Presidential election a couple of weeks away now. We asked some folks here at Carton's what they'll remember most about this campaign. Here's what they said.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sixty million people watched the first debate between presidential candidates, and I think that was 20 million more than watched any of the debates in 2000.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think religion is separating a lot of voters within this election.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Both candidates really overdid it in terms of talking about their military background and their records. People just got tired of hearing that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Usually people decide on economic issues, healthcare, education, and this -- you know, the big issue are polarized over is the fact that we're at war.


CAFFERTY: But they got a better chance of -- all right, so people thinking about the election, which will be over soon. And then, all of the 24-hour news networks are going to have to find something to do with themselves, because we'll be out of material. Back to Bill and Soledad.

HEMMER: That's right. Jack, thanks.

A lot of folks in Chicago may think about that political machine, and they may think it's a bit of a thing of the past. Plenty of evidence, though, it's still thriving. A look at that -- politics in Chicago in a moment.


HEMMER: Morning rush hour here in Chicago. Welcome back, everyone. Politics in this town -- or rather, in any other big city -- may be hidden inside a smoke-filled room. But here in this town, it is a bare-knuckle business that is woven into this city's history.


(voice-over): In a town where some say the streets are paved with deals, the politicians here were once giants, fueled by a well- oiled machine.

PAUL GREEN, ROOSEVELT UNIV. PROFESSOR: You need a tolerable level of corruption to really make things work. You've got to have a little grease to make things smooth.

HEMMER: That grease comes from patronage, the nuts and bolts of Chicago politics, dating back to the turn of the last century. It began with "Hinky Dink" Kenna and "Bathhouse" John Coughlin -- powerful neighborhood bosses who promised jobs and rewards for votes. For 40 years, they never lost an election.

The Depression years of the '30s made local politicians appreciate the value of the machine. And ever since, Democrats have controlled Chicago almost like a corporation operated through its 50 wards. No one mastered the concept as well as the late Mayor Richard J. Daley. He ran the city and its politics for 21 years. The big boss helped deliver the 1960 election for John Kennedy and is best- known nationally for his strong-arm tactics against protesters in the 1968 convention.

Jane Byrne, elected mayor in 1979, knows what a tough political town Chicago was.

JANE BYRNE, FMR. CHICAGO MAYOR: I know full well that if somebody in your ward -- to myself I would say this -- in your ward died, you sent the precinct captain out to get the gold out of his teeth. I really felt that way about -- I mean, it was every dime they wanted for themselves.

HEMMER: A lawsuit forced a change in how some politicians do business here and help reform the system, as well. The present mayor is Richard M. Daley, the former mayor's son. His style is somewhat different from his father, but in many ways, every bit as effective.

JOHN KASS, "CHICAGO TRIBUNE" COLUMNIST: He's more powerful than his father. He controls more, and there's no political opposition to him. That doesn't mean that there are people who wouldn't want to oppose him. They're just terrified of him.

HEMMER: Past, present and future, one thing is certain -- they love their politics here.

FELICIA MIDDLEBROOKS, WBBM RADIO: Politics, to Chicagoans, is like cheese to pizza. It's like barbecue sauce to ribs. It's like peanut butter to jelly. They just go hand in hand. That's just the way it is here.


HEMMER (on camera): Hand in hand indeed. To help us understand today why that's the way it is, John Pelissero is professor of politics here at Loyola University, my guest now. Good to see you, professor, and good morning to you.


HEMMER: When you look back on that history, has the electorate here in Chicago -- or even Illinois, for that matter -- has their faith been restored? Or is there still a little bit of question right now about the politics?

PELISSERO: Well, Chicago has had this history of machine dominating politics. And for an unfortunate time during that machine era, there was corruption and scandal. And while a lot of that's been cleaned up through the help of federal investigations and a push by this mayor to have a clean city government, there's still a fair amount of that that goes on.

HEMMER: It may or may not come as a surprise to you now, but when we were in Florida for the 2000 recount, Cook County, where we're located now in Chicago, was brought up all the time.

PELISSERO: Well, there's good reason for that. Cook County was the county that had the largest number of ballot problems in 2000 outside of those counties in Florida.

HEMMER: We're going to see that again this year?

PELISSERO: Well, there's been a concerted effort made here in Cook County, just as there has been in Florida and other states, to ensure this is going to be a good election process. And I'm sure that the problems will be minimal.

HEMMER: The story we were watching before we introduced you was about the 1960s in a lot of ways and how powerful the political machine in Chicago was and how it forecast its way out into the rest of the country.

This year, John Kerry's beating George Bush in some of these polls by a significant margin. One poll puts him up 55 percent to 38 percent. Given that, does Chicago still have the influence that it once had?

PELISSERO: It still does have significant influence. I mean, Chicago, in many ways, drives the outcome of the election in Illinois, because of the size of the population that we have here.

And even though Kerry is way ahead in the polls, the outcome of elections like that for United States Senator are going to be tied to the mobilization of voters, that big army of old regular Democrats here in Chicago.

HEMMER: Listen, thanks for your time. Pleasure meeting you.

PELISSERO: Good to meet you, Bill.

HEMMER: John Pelissero, professor here at Loyola. Great to see you. Thanks for hosting us, too. Wonderful, wonderful location.

PELISSERO: Loyola is glad to have you.

HEMMER: Thank you -- Soledad?

O'BRIEN: And thank you very much.

Coming up this morning on CNN, the unique look at the effects of war through the eyes of ordinary Iraqis. "Voices of Iraq" is a special documentary, and "CNN LIVE TODAY" talks to the folks behind it. That's coming up in the next hour with Daryn Kagan and Rick Sanchez.

AMERICAN MORNING will be back in just a moment from Chicago.


HEMMER: All right. Don't forget tomorrow we'll be at Union Station, a great location -- for no other reason than we'll be indoors, actually. You're right.

O'BRIEN: We're talking to Lieutenant Governor...

HEMMER: Can't wait for tomorrow!

O'BRIEN: ... we're talking to Irma P. Hall, who's a character actress in Chicago. And "deep dish politics," of course. And Ken's got a piece on the bridge tenders...

COLLINS: Yeah, a beautiful piece of all the boats going at the beginning of the opening of the season. And at the close of the season they go up the river to play at the lake, obviously, and then they go back down to park their boats. Beautiful piece.

I will be at Millennium Park tomorrow.

HEMMER: Wonderful.

COLLINS: Outdoors, Jack Cafferty -- thank you very much.

O'BRIEN: So, a big day tomorrow as we continue our tour through Chicago. We've got to thank you, Phil. Thank you so much for hosting us. Phil Hale is the vice president of public affairs at Loyola University. And we are so grateful. You guys have just done a terrific job.

Why is it not windy here? Have you guys -- but whatever. Before we go, will you take a look at this fantastic cheesecake? I'm told it's plain cheesecake. This is from the folks at Eli's, which has some of the best cheesecake in the world. And they're located just -- why thank you! I think I will. I think this is -- what's this? Caramel chocolate something -- really caloric, but you know what? Why not?

SERWER: ... try it. Breakfast of champions.

HEMMER: Look at the logo here. Really well done.

Eli's does it for everyone -- the Bull's championships, mayoral inaugurations, they do -- you've got an event in Chicago, Eli's -- chances are they're going to be there for you.

O'BRIEN: Taste of Chicago -- every year they do the cheesecake for the Taste of Chicago. So, thanks to our friends at Eli's, as well, and thanks to all the folks who have come this morning out to be with us. We certainly appreciate it.

We'll see you tomorrow at our location at Union Station. Bring the cheesecake, please.

COLLINS: I think we'll still be eating it.

HEMMER: The week rolls on. Have a great day.

Here's Rick Sanchez at CNN Center. Rick, who's with you today?

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Daryn's -- as a matter of fact, we have a cake eater.

O'BRIEN: Hey, Daryn. Good morning.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: You know, their show has the fancy travel budget.


KAGAN: I think we got the better end of the deal today, because we're warm.

O'BRIEN: I'm bringing this cake home for you.

KAGAN: OK excellent. You guys enjoy the day in Chicago today.

SANCHEZ: It does look cold this morning. All right, here we go. Here's the news.


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